Fans of Mercedes-Benz's smallest SUV and diesel enthusiasts alike have reason to rejoice with the introduction of the 2013 Mercedes-Benz GLK-Class lineup. In addition to smoother styling, which rounds off the chiseled look of the outgoing model, the 2013 GLK gets the direct-injected 3.5-liter V-6 producing 302 horsepower and 273 lb-ft of torque from the C and E-Class sedans, as well as the long-rumored diesel model for the U.S. market, the GLK 250 Bluetec.
LED lighting is all the rage in automotive styling circles and it figures prominently on the exterior of the new GLK-Class. There are standard LED running lights, tail lights, and even rear license plate frame lights. If that's still not enough LED for you, it also accents the interior as part of the Full Leather Seating package, with its fiber-optic lighting. The GLK continues to offer standard 19 and optional 20-inch wheels, but with new twin 5-spoke designs for the 2013 model.
On the inside of the GLK, the dashboard has been completely redesigned, with a prominent burl walnut piece spanning the entire width of the dashboard, and round air vents following the pattern set by the new SL, adding some additional flair to the interior. The gear selector moves from the center console to the steering column, and the GLK now comes standard with steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters.
Audio and entertainment systems run the gamut from basic to full-featured, starting with a single-CD, six-speaker system with AM/FM and MP3 capability and a 5.8-inch color display. Bluetooth hands-free calling is standard. The available multimedia package bumps the monitor size up to 7 inches, and adds a rearview camera, enhanced voice control, and Mercedes' COMAND system with hard-drive navigation. Satellite radio and an iPod/MP3 media interface are included as part of the Premium1 package or available as stand-alone options. If you want to go all-out, an optional Harmon-Kardon system features a 7-channel DSP amplifier with a total 510-watt output pumping through 12 speakers. The top-of-the-line sound system also features Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS.
Mercedes-Benz has a long tradition of safety, and the 2013 GLK continues that tradition. Attention Assist drowsy driver detection is standard, along with a total of nine airbags. Blind spot and lane-keeping assist are optional, as well as Distronic Plus with Pre-Safe braking, as part of the Driver Assistance Package. Brakes are 13-inch front and 11.8-inch rear discs, the same size as last year.
But enough with those insignificant details. What probably piqued your interest is the availability of a diesel powertrain. For the GLK 250 Bluetec, it takes the form of a 2.1-liter four-cylinder with 190-hp and 369 lb-ft. But as interesting as the engine is, the transmission enhancements specifically for the diesel are equally intriguing. Because a four-cylinder (and especially a diesel) is inherently more vibration-prone than a six-cylinder, Mercedes came up with an innovative twin-turbine damper that shifts the center of mass of the torque converter, reducing both vibration and slip in an effort to further optimize fuel efficiency. To eke even more efficiency out of the drivetrain, the transmission features friction-optimized bearings, trans fluid thermal management, and even uses a unique low-drag transmission fluid with blue coloring to differentiate it from the more common red ATF. Fuel economy figures were not released for either the gas or diesel powertrains, but the fuel consumption on the diesel was described in the release as being "extremely frugal." We will wait and see if the GLK Bluetec crests the magic 30 mpg figure on the highway. The GLK 350 and 350 4Matic will be available in the summer 2012, with the Bluetec following in early calendar 2013. Pricing will be announced further to the on-sale dates.